Many of us, and you’ll know if you’re one of this group, spend a lot of time veering between highs and lows. Sometimes we feel like nothing, no good, waste of space, done everything wrong, that sort of thing. But at other times we are invincible, amazing, unbeatable, unstoppable, simply the best. And there’s not much of an in between space. We secretly tell ourselves that would be so boring.
Many people that burn out will recognise this veering between the two opposites as part of their normal life. The highs give the adrenaline we need to accomplish great things, but when we crash and burn, we have nothing to sustain us. In the terms of the story of the goose that lay the golden eggs, when we are high, we value ourselves for the golden eggs we produce, and when we are low, we are nothing but sad geese.
I spent a lot of my life moving between these. There’s a line I read when in college in a book whose name I cannot remember that goes “My lows are getting lower, and my highs are only medium high.” Many times over the years, I thought about this wry comment, and feared it was happening to me. At their best, my highs were full of wonderful insights, great spiritual experiences, wondrous understandings about myself and others. But my lows lasted so much longer, and were so tough.
When I was high, there was no death. When I was low, there was no life.
Slowly I began to realise that if you keep going up and down, the trip takes a lot longer than if you travel on a level path. More than that, I just began to understand that neither highs nor lows brought me comfort or lasting truth, and that if I could keep to the middle path, I could stand in my power and in my authority and in my wisdom solidly, patiently, persistently, and with joy.
I developed a little exercise which I have used myself, and which I often find incredibly helpful for clients and students. It is an image of two mountains which represent two opposite ways you have of seeing something important in your life.
Typically, on one mountain you are nothing and the other you are amazing and invincible, but they could be any pair of opposites that define your life or your relationships. Between the two mountains is a golden path , which, in spiritual terms, is called the path between the opposites.
First you walk in circles on the path of the first mountain, and talk to yourself, telling yourself all the awful things you say to yourself, about how you’ve done everything wrong and you are hopeless, and you might as well give up, all that. Then you move to the other mountain, and there you walk around telling yourself how amazing you are and how you can do absolutely anything you want to do and never fail. Having established these positions, and recognised them as your own, you can move on.
Now you take the path in the middle, which is a golden path. You walk very slowly in a walking meditation, breathing out with your first step, and breathing in with your second step. And as you walk slowly, focussing on your breathing, you become aware of what it is like to be on this path and how the world looks.
It is astonishing how you can discover that on this path, just breathing, just being, just living, just loving is enough.
Boring? No. Try it please and let me know.